The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Byrd's boxing prowess not forgotten


October 21, 2018

Editor's note: This is the first of two stories profiling local inductees into the New Mexico Boxing Hall of Fame. A profile of Tony Romero will run in Wednesday's edition of The News.

CLOVIS — There was a time Brooks Byrd and Muhammad Ali were on the same page.


A newspaper clipping displaying boxing rankings from December 1974 showed Ali — the heavyweight legend — and Romero — then an up-and-coming junior welterweight — on the same page of the paper.

The following year, 1975, was big for both fighters. Ali won 'The Thrilla in Manilla' against Joe Frazier, while Byrd was the world's eighth-ranked junior welterweight, the nation's third-ranked in that category.

Decades may have come and gone but the achievements are indelible. And now Byrd — along with another local boxer, Tony Romero — will be inducted into the New Mexico Boxing Hall of Fame on Oct. 27 in Albuquerque.

"Man, it's great. It's unbelievable to me. ... It's a great honor," Byrd said. "I had some good breaks and bad breaks, some good calls and bad calls, but this is about the best call you can get."

For Byrd, it's a fitting destination considering all the time he's devoted to boxing throughout his life. It started when he was a child and learning how to defend himself was a necessary skill while growing up with eight brothers, all bigger than him.

"I was being kind of bullied around and I just slid off from that," Byrd recalled.

He found his way to a boxing hangout on Grand and Mitchell. "There used to be a motel there, I can't remember the name of it," Byrd said. "We used to train in the basement. We had some good fighters come out of Clovis."

Byrd was determined to be one of them, so he studied the boxers who were training and sparring. "I started watching them," he said. "I already knew how to duck and dodge from my big brothers who bopped me on the head."

Byrd was a sponge, learning everything about the sport, and the more he liked it, the more he wanted to dedicate himself to it. Helping that cause, as is usually the case with promising young boxers, was good coaching. For Byrd, that was handled by Jimmy Beacham and Bob Stevens. Beacham stood out most.

"He was the one who took the time to show me lots of things," Byrd said. "He saw more than what I did, he saw what I could do. Bob Stevens worked with me a lot, but Jimmy Beacham showed me more things that I didn't know that I could do. Both of them were good coaches."

Eventually, Byrd worked his way to getting a professional fight, the details of which - including how old he was - have faded a bit over time. "Man, I couldn't say, I guess about 21 or something like that," Byrd said. "It's been a while. I can't remember who I fought."

But he does remember how he battled to climb the junior welterweight ladder. All that battling brought him a Ring Magazine Prospect of the Month notice. After some more battling, he was ranked No. 3 in the country.

"It was great. I can't explain it," he said. "It was something super that I could get that far."

Byrd soon fought second-ranked Monroe Brooks in Los Angeles but was defeated in what, to the best of Byrd's recollection, was a TKO (technical knockout).

"He was a strong person. He was a lot stronger than I was," Byrd said of Brooks. "It was a good fight, though."

Aside from a challenging bout against a highly-ranked opponent, Byrd came away with some valuable information about Brooks that today could easily be found on, but was hard to come by in the seventies.

"We came to talking and came to find out that we were cousins," Byrd said. "That was strange, man. I'll never forget that."

Byrd also fought top-ranked Ray Lampkin in Portland, Oregon.

"He beat me by decision," Byrd said. "You almost had to knock a champion out to win back in the day."

Byrd retired in his late 20s to take a job with the railroad that offered a steady paycheck without having to get punched in the head. Boxing, though, never strayed far from his mind. And never will.

"I still like it," Byrd said. "Some things happened; I mashed my legs up. But I still every once in a while get that urge. I go down to the gym and work out and see the kids working out. I see some things that the coaches don't always see. ... They turn around and thank me. They say, 'Man, I didn't see that.'"

It's a sport Byrd will always have his eyes on, one way or another. It's a sport that brought him to places he never thought he'd go, carried him to Puerto Rico and Hawaii and elsewhere. It's a sport that will always own a part of Byrd's heart, a love story that will never end.

"It was a blessing," Byrd said. "I've been blessed in many ways, but I don't think I can get a better blessing than boxing."


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